Foraging was once as common in Ireland as going to the supermarket is today. People exploited their surroundings in a sustainable way, harvesting wild fruits, nuts, herbs, flowers, mushrooms, seaweeds and shellfish, all of which were abundant in the countryside and on the seashore.
Today, most people don't have access to the countryside or are unfamiliar with it. Most would not be able to identify wild foods and may well be fearful of them and the possibility of making themselves ill.
Undeniably, some species of mushrooms are extremely poisonous, so don’t be foolhardy; it’s well worth going on wild mushroom hunts with trained people before venturing out on your own. But don’t let the fact that a few species happen to be poisonous keep you away from discovering the incredible variety of flavours available for the gathering. Consult a few well-illustrated books to be doubly sure. Once you find your secret caches, you might even find yourself turning into one of these people who becomes incredibly secretive and won’t let anyone else come along.
Be streetwise about where you forage. Avoid busy roads, where exhaust fumes may have settled on the flora. Also, I wouldn’t be madly keen to forage on land that’s likely to have been chemically sprayed, for example adjacent to intensively grown field crops or commercial orchards. But I would urge farming families to consider planting damsons, crabapple, hawthorn, elder, even gooseberries and redcurrants in the hedgerows around their farms as people did long ago, not only to enhance biodiversity but for the joy of foraging.